Happy learning on the web

June 24, 2014
In my March column, I highlighted places where one could take university quality courses online for free. The response was much more than expected from such a topic.

By Lory Laughter, RDH, BS

In my March column, I highlighted places where one could take university quality courses online for free. The response was much more than expected from such a topic. Realizing no list is ever complete when it comes to web sources (the content of which is always changing), some had websites to add while others asked for direction to degree completion and dental-specific topics. The sites in this column are not all free, and I am not endorsing any over another, just fulfilling the requests of my readers. You are, after all, why I write eagerly each month.

Ann English, RDH, BS, recommended I check out a site1 with diverse educational offerings from many different institutes of higher learning. On this site, you can take courses for free, and many offer a verified certificate for a small fee. Here, the learner is in charge of his or her own educational journey. You can choose courses based on category, language, partner school, and whether or not you want to earn a certificate. There are also 10 areas of specialization where one takes all the courses in the track and completes a capstone project. The fee and number of courses for specialization certificates vary by subject from $166 to $490, with most right around $200.


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Coursera offers a CAMBRA course taught by Dr. John Featherstone from the University of California, San Francisco. Quite a few people mentioned this course to me by email and on Facebook. The course is six weeks long and suggests each week will entail four to six hours of dedication. A verified certificate can be earned for $69 or you can take it for free without certification. The University of Maryland offers a course titled "Exploring Quantum Physics" that I plan to attend. Physics was a course I did not enjoy in high school, but I feel I may not have given it a fair chance. Life is full of opportunities to give things another try.

For those seeking dental hygiene degree completion online, the choices are more abundant than one might think. A good place to start exploring online degree completion is on the ADHA website.2 Listed under ADHA resources is dental hygiene program information, and by clicking this link you are given both on-campus and online options. Read carefully as some programs are 100% online and others require significant on-campus time.

I counted 43 programs offering dental hygiene degree completion (BS or BA), though five of these programs state no online degree is offered as less than 25% of the coursework can be completed off campus. Additionally, there are 12 programs offering master's degree completion work online in dental hygiene. It should also be noted these are all accredited institutions, an important feature if you plan to continue your education and obtain higher degrees.

Another online program specifically for clinical dental hygienists is O'Hehir University.3 This degree completion program is for the licensed RDH with a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree who wants to pursue a BS. In the future an MS track may also be available. According to the website, the program requires a six-month commitment and fee for BS candidates is $1,950. The program is not yet accredited, so those seeking to pursue employment in the education setting or research are encouraged to attend more specific programs for those tracks.

Dental hygiene is not the only option for continuing your education with a higher degree. I know colleagues who have pursued degrees in nutrition, biology, and psychology almost completely online. Be careful when starting the search for these programs online, as many sites offering direction and program comparison are actually merely information collection sites. If you must put in your name, address, or phone number before being shown any program information, it is unlikely you will find the information you seek.

I recommend instead starting with your alma mater or a specific college in the area you wish to study. Seek out a professional practicing in the field and ask for guidance in finding an online program. Another place to start is with one of the larger online university presences such as Kaplan, Capella, or University of Phoenix.

The last online source I would like to mention is Khan Academy,4 a nonprofit organization with the goal of providing a world-class education to anyone. Khan Academy is open to children or adults and is used by some for a home-schooling resource. You can also utilize Kahn to teach or tutor students and follow their progress online.

While Kahn Academy has a reputation for focusing on math and science, courses are also offered in finance, humanities, computing, and even test preparation for some of the national entrance exams. The site includes a Knowledge Map that takes the learner from the skill of counting to 100 to understanding and applying extreme value theorem. There is truly something for everyone to learn in this program.

There is no shortage of educational experiences on the World Wide Web. The challenge is finding a quality program suited to your individual needs and desires. Be smart in your search and cautious of sites collecting information to do your searching for you. Never be afraid to ask questions before exchanging money for credits and ask for a sample course syllabus if you are unsure the content is right for you. Whether seeking free offerings to expand your horizons or a degree to enhance your opportunities, you can find it by weaving through the web. Happy learning!

Websites referred to in this month's column

  1. www.coursera.org
  2. www.adha.org/resources
  3. ohehiruniversity.com
  4. www.khanacademy.org

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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